The market of "smart" speakers welcomes a new player: Marshall. The firm now sells a range of models, including the Acton II that we will discover immediately!
- Extended and balanced frequency response
- Strong and well defined basses
- Very neat construction
- Simple and pleasant to use
- Accuracy that could have been better in the midrange / treble
- Pronounced directionality
- Bluetooth latency a bit too high
Marshall Acton 2 Review
With this Acton II, Marshall shows that he is still attached to his visual identity, which is largely the cause of his popularity. The manufacturer has refined and improved its recipe over the years and the result is there: the manufacture is very serious and the finishes are particularly neat. We always find the parallelepiped format and the look baffle / amp style, with very slightly rounded edges.
Four small rubber feet are placed under the enclosure, ensuring a flawless stability once placed on a piece of furniture (while avoiding the risk of scratches). Note that the enclosure does not promise any particular resistance: it is better to keep it away from risk areas.
The Marshall Acton 2 speaker consists of several materials: leatherette "tolex" way on a large part of the enclosure, a large grid mesh rigid, some brushed aluminum keys (front plate, top and buttons / potentiometers) as well as a rubbery coating surrounding the potentiometers. The only traces of assembly are the screws placed behind the enclosure and the junction of the "tolex" below. This is far from unacceptable since these areas are not directly visible.
The Marshall Acton 2 is the smallest of the "smart" Marshall speakers. Although it is relatively compact and lightweight, it does not carry any batteries and must be permanently connected to the mains. It is also not possible to turn off / on with a button.
Marshall Acton II
The Marshall Acton II connects wirelessly via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth (no version information, compatibility with SBC and AAC codecs, no multipoint connection). Unlike many speakers labeled "smart" and Google Assistant, this model is fortunate to have an analog input mini-jack 3.5 mm. We appreciate the effort, even if we are still hungry about the connection possibilities. Connected features are limited to the Chromecast multimedia ecosystem: multiroom and music streaming services such as Spotify, Deezer, Tidal, Google Play Music, Qobuz and TuneIn, for example. No DLNA and no compatibility with AirPlay.
Like all so-called "smart" speakers, the Acton II must pass through the configuration box to benefit from all connected features. This is done directly via the Google Home app and we must admit that it is still as efficient and intuitive; whether it's on iOS or Android. The first setup of the speaker is very easy in less than five minutes, even if you have never used this kind of product - much less if you have already had the opportunity to configure the Voice Match function and connect your streaming service account).
The Google Home app unfortunately has few sound customization options. So we expected to be able to do it through another application proposed by Marshall for Acton II Voice and Stanmore II Voice: Marshall Voice (Android and iOS). We were surprised - and a little disappointed, let's admit - to learn that it is actually only compatible with Alexa versions - and very poorly translated from the little we've seen. Each potentiometer has its bright indications. You can also find the source, the status of the Wi-Fi / Bluetooth connection, the status of the on-board microphones and the status of Google Assistant.
The Acton 2 is very easy to use. Basic controls are present: we can manage the listening volume, music playback, switch between the three sources, navigate between the tracks (two and three presses on the pause / play button), activate / deactivate the two embedded microphones for the voice assistant and individually manage the bass and treble level. Although the control is digital, the knobs are very pleasant to use. To quibble, we would have appreciated an analog command at least for the potentiometer of the listening volume, for an even more precise management. Many light indications are there to guide the user, in addition to some audible and vocal alerts brought by Google Assistant. Even beginners will find themselves there.
Marshall Acton II Bluetooth
Bluetooth communication latency is around 260 ms. In practice, there is a significant shift between sound and image on some devices and applications that offer no compensation. On the other hand, when it is the case (applications Netflix, YouTube, Facebook on Android or iOS), the good implementation of the protocol Bluetooth makes it possible to follow a minimum a video if one is not very sensitive to this shift. The wired connection also has a slight shift, but we can follow a video without much discomfort, even during the dialogue phases.
The Marshall Acton 2 has two mics placed on its top panel. They offer good voice recognition overall. A quiet environment is however recommended to be fully understood by the assistant.
Voice recognition is provided in a quiet environment without forcing the voice, regardless of our direction relative to the speaker, as long as we are in the same room (20 m²). In a room with very little reverberant acoustics, larger or being in an adjacent room, it is necessary to speak loudly and intelligibly to trigger the assistant and optimize the understanding of our request. In a noisier room (some guests talk with music in the background), we must approach within 3 m of the speaker to pass without a hitch our message. When the speaker broadcasts the music at a particularly high level (more than 80%), it is always possible to call the assistant to submit a request (the music is cut off if the "Ok Google" is heard), but you have to speak loudly and be within 2 meters of the enclosure.
Performance and Quality of Audio
The sound performances of the Marshall Acton II are very honorable. The speaker offers a relatively balanced and powerful sound, with a very correct extension, both in the bass and treble.
The frequency response of Acton 2 is well balanced. We nevertheless feel a slight accentuation in the low frequencies that we can easily and accurately adjust with the dedicated potentiometer on the speaker. The extension in the lower frequencies is here very satisfactory given the size of the enclosure. This one attacks the reproduction from 70 Hz approximately (the small peak around 63 Hz results from a stationary wave and distorts a measurement). We have a relatively solid base and a very good depth. Given the position of the bass-reflex vent, be careful not to place the speaker too close to a wall or, worse, in a corner. The rendering in the low frequencies would be directly impacted. The Acton II Voice is accurate in this region. The bass is both punchy and well defined and does not impact higher frequency areas.
The report is a little less bright on the side of mediums. If the equilibrium is still in place, it is less the case of precision. Indeed, the speaker shows some weaknesses when it attacks the rich parts in harmonics with a very weak dynamics; we find in very large quantities in rock or metal, for example. The distortion gently tip the tip of his nose and it is then more difficult to distinguish the different sources, especially when there are electric guitars or voices saturated in the lot. The fussiest will certainly reproach the Marshall Acton 2 a feeling of presence a bit too far behind. That being said, the voices are intelligible and the stamps are generally well respected. The restitution remains energetic and can be exploited much of the power offered by the speaker before the distortion is too important (volume to 85/90% maximum, depending on the content listened to). Even if we never shake the walls, this power reserve is enough to sound a piece of a size very correct (about 20 m²) for a party.
The highest frequencies are very well represented. The Marshall Acton II shows a generous extension in the extreme treble. We really would have liked to enjoy it to the full, unfortunately the detail is not incredible and the stereo scene is very narrow, not to say non-existent. The subtle effects (effects of parts, reverberations, echoes, etc.) are therefore well perceived, but they are as if confined to the enclosure. The pronounced directivity of the latter also plays a role in this impression. Sometimes a few sibilants can be heard. Note finally that the sound in the treble varies depending on the connection mode: Bluetooth, the speaker puts more prominently the frequencies above 8 kHz. Given the pronounced directivity of the speaker, the difference is really audible only being in front of the speakers.
Even if everything is not perfect, the Marshall Acton 2 marks essential points. This model will satisfy people looking for a high-performance, classy Google Assistant (GA) sedentary speaker. Although it is one of the few GA speakers to offer a mini-jack input, it remains somewhat limited compared to some competitors without voice assistant, such as the Addon C5. It's up to you to make your choice according to your priorities.
Marshall Acton 2 Bluetooth Speaker